Many small business owners do not have the luxury of bringing somebody on board to handle marketing responsibilities for their company, let alone hiring a firm or professional agency to do it for them. The available time and financial resources for many business owners – especially those first starting out – force them to try and handle their marketing strategy on their own. While this will undoubtedly help save money, it can lead to problems, as marketing done poorly can sometimes cost you more in lost business than you would have spent hiring a professional.
Top Things Small Business Owners Should Steer Clear From
That’s not to scare any of you do-it-yourselfers away from taking up the reins if you want to or feel you’re up to the task. However, there are a few cardinal rules that have gotten many folks into trouble before that you should do your best to avoid. Let’s take a look at a few of them and see why they can be so damaging.
Failing to Record and Track Your Work
One of the most commonly overlooked aspects of marketing that business owners tend to lose sight of or underestimate is the importance of tracking your efforts. Diligent record keeping and data collection allows you to see exactly which of your ideas and campaigns are working best, which will in turn allow you to see WHY they are successful.
By comparing different efforts against others, examining all different aspects, and monitoring results, you’ll be able to save precious marketing and advertising dollars in the future by not throwing money at ineffective solutions. For example, if you’re advertising on Facebook, you may find that the very same ad performs markedly better when targeted at females between the ages of 40-65 than men of the same age. If you switch up the ad copy or accompanying image however, and find that those same men are much more likely to interact, you’ll know which aspect or aspects of the ad cater more toward males or females…IF you keep track!
The more you monitor and take notes, the more data you’ll have to base your next decisions upon. In a few years, you’ll have a laser-like focus on which types of marketing efforts are most successful for your business, which customers are most likely to engage with it, when is the most effective time to run the ads…everything.
Hone Your Focus by Building Your Foundation
Ever hear of the phrase “putting the cart before the horse”? The underlying idea behind that colloquialism is that your hard work can be wasted if you do things in the incorrect order.
A great example of this in small business marketing is when business owners react quickly upon hearing an effective new strategy and rushing to implement it without fully understanding how it will benefit them. If you run a catering company specializing in gourmet, artistic cupcakes and artisan pastries, it’s quite possible that one of your competitors is absolutely killing it on Pinterest. They’re posting high-quality, stylized images of their wares on a regular basis, have hundreds of active followers that engage with their content and share it through all their thousands of friends, and it’s leading to real, tangible business coming through their doors. Bully for them! But before you go diving headfirst into the Pinterest pool in an effort to replicate their successes, are you really ready? Do you fully understand the Pinterest platform and know the most effective ways to gain traction? Are you well-versed in the best practices for businesses so you don’t come off as too ad-heavy?
Take the time to fully understand what it is you’ll be doing and what you want to get out of it before undertaking any marketing efforts, big or small. Your forethought will be rewarded.
Not Branding Your Uniqueness
Most business owners got into their line of work because they were good at something and loved doing it. That passion is one of the biggest things that should set your business apart from the competition, and when you’re trying to market yourself, one of the most important aspects in uniqueness. A potential customer can only see so many ads for a particular kind of business before they start to meld into each other.
What do you do that your competition doesn’t? Or what do you do BETTER than your competition? Finding out which are your best and most unique attributes as a business will be key in coming up with your messaging and overall branding position. Once you have this in mind, marketing that will be a much easier task. By staying consistent with your messaging, your audience will begin to associate your brand with your key points of uniqueness, whatever they may be.
Not Jumping On the Technology Train
This is another big one we see a lot, and it can almost be seen as the opposite edge of the “putting the cart before the horse” example above. Completely different, but both have the potential to be equally detrimental to your business.
Depending on the type of business, the geographical location in which it operates, the demographics of its clientele, and the age and technological capabilities of its main proprietor, a business owner might not feel the need to join Facebook, Twitter, or even have a website anytime soon. They may feel that things have been going just fine with their business for years and they see no need to fix what isn’t broke. While the logic behind this can be seen as sound, what they are failing to realize is the insanely high amount of potential missed revenue by not exploring some of the most basic technological tools that can help them bring in revenue.
If you’re unsure of how to properly create a website, aren’t clear about precisely how email marketing works, or have no idea what a tweet even is, that’s fine! But do yourself and your business a favor and take some time to learn up or hire someone who’s savvy. Smartphones, the Internet, text messaging, Facebook and the rest are not going away anytime soon, and your competition is likely already milking them for all their worth. You don’t have to redirect your entire focus towards e-based avenues, but a little bit of effort will go a very long way in the end.
Don’t Be Afraid to Have Fun!
Unless you’re in a line of work where levity and a sense of humor aren’t appropriate (for example, a funeral home director), you definitely should look into creative, fun, or humorous ways to market your business. We all like to have a good time, and if you can have fun while coming up with interesting ad ideas or promotions, that positivity and good attitude will have a trickledown effect to your managers, your employees, and ultimately and most importantly, your customers.
Doing something out of the ordinary for a day at your brick and mortar business for a day, even something as simple as a local musician doing live music, is a great start. A funny and clever ad in the local newspaper or on Facebook that advertises an upcoming sale has a much better chance of sticking into a customer’s head than a bland, straightforward one. Bounce ideas of your coworkers, colleagues, family, and friends to make sure your creative juices are flowing and your humor isn’t too niche or worse, offensive. Collaborating with others from different points of view minimizes this risk.